On This Day In History: Eugène Dubois Who Discovered Remains Of Java Man Was Born – On Jan 28, 1858

On January 28, 1858, Eugène Dubois, a Dutch anatomist, geologist, anthropologist, and paleontologist was born in Eijsden, Netherlands.

Dubois was famous above all for having discovered remains of Java man, the first known fossil of Homo erectus.

Dubois was the son of a pharmacist and was fascinated by natural history at an early age. He studied medicine at the University of Amsterdam and became a doctor of anatomy in 1884. After hearing a lecture by physiologist Karl Vogt, the young Dubois obsessed with finding the missing link that united mankind with apes.

He was the first scientist who deliberately searched for fossils of human ancestors.

Today we know, we know that humans are more closely related to gorilla and chimpanzee, but Dubois took on both orangutans and humans have thumb holes and gibbons can walk on two legs, are monogamous and have low sexual dimorphism.

He therefore believed that man’s original home was in Southeast Asia, not in Africa. In 1885 he traveled to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) to try to find the link between man and apes.

He worked as a medical officer at a military hospital in Sumatra between 1888 and 1895 during the Dutch colonial rule.

In Oct 1891, Dubois discovered three fossils of Java Man as Homo erectus was then called and the discovery was made near the village Trinil.

The fossils consisted of animal caps, femur, and a few molars, but Dubois was convinced that he had found the missing link.

This was the first evidence of human evolution and some of his colleagues supported him, but generally, he was met with great skepticism and among these sceptics was also Rudolf Virchow, a German physician, anthropologist, pathologist, known as «the father of modern pathology».

Dubois was deeply disappointed and buried the finds during its earth floor, refused to show them to anyone and struck new paths professionally. He was appointed in 1899 as professor of geology and paleontology in Amsterdam.

He died December 16, 1940.

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